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It was a missing puzzle piece.
For more than a decade, Brian Showers has compiled and anthologized Irish Gothic and horror writers. Few, though, have been such a mystery to him as the strangely named George Edmund Lobo.
There is little known about him, says Showers. That’s what drove him to cross the city on a recent Saturday to Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold’s Cross, in search of Lobo’s grave.
“In wanting to learn more about the author,” says Showers, “naturally where he was buried and the information on his tombstone became relevant.”
Showers found out about Lobo through a friend, Richard Dalby.
Dalby – a literary researcher who died last year – didn’t just love ghost stories. He scoured second-hand book stores for them, says Showers. “He’d be one of these researchers and scholars that tirelessly rediscovered authors.”
Digging through book stories and buying volumes of old ghost stories is probably how Dalby came across a copy of Mandrake, Lobo’s second novel. It’s “a kind of an occult adventure thriller”, says Showers.
The story follows the investigations of an American occult detective, Tom Annesley, in two remote English villages, which are being terrorized by a malevolent sorcerer by the name of Baron Habdymos.
“It’s meant to be a fast-paced sort of novel,” says Showers. It seems like “something he wrote with an eye towards a career”.
Lobo wrote the novel in 1929 and published it under the pseudonym Oliver Sherry, with Jarrolds of London. It’s the only one of Lobo’s novels currently in print, since Medusa Press put out a new edition in 2011.
It is also his only tale not lost to the ravages of time. Some other novels mentioned in Lobo’s entry in the Who’s Who in Literature, such as Brood of Death, seem to have disappeared, and it’s hard to know if they were even published, says Showers.
There were other Irish writers of the fantastic around at the same time, says Jarlath Killeen, an expert in Gothic literature at Trinity College Dublin. People such as Lord Dunsany, James Stephens, and Beatrice Grimshaw.
But they couldn’t really be classified as a “collection”, says Killeen. The likelihood of these writers comprising even a group “doesn’t seem likely”, he says.
When Dalby found a story or collection he liked, if it was out of copyright he would try to find a publisher for it. He would ferret out as much as he could find on the history of the writer, to put in the introduction that he would invariably write.
Since Dalby’s death, Showers has taken it upon himself to build on what the researcher had found out about Lobo. He is planning an introduction to Lobo’s work in an anthology he’s putting together on Irish supernatural and Gothic fiction.
“It’s projected to be about 180,000 words,” says Showers, who runs Swan River Press, a small independent publisher dedicated to publishing Gothic, supernatural and fantastical horror, founded in 2003.
“It sort of came out of this journal that I’d been editing for the past five years called the Green Book,” he says. That’s a magazine of essays and articles on Irish Gothic literature that comes out twice yearly.
Dalby had already found out some tidbits. Lobo was born on 25 February 1894 at 41 Ashford Street in what is today Dublin’s Stoneybatter neighbourhood.
It’s still unclear where his curious surname comes from. “Lobo is Spanish for wolf,” Dalby wrote, in some of his notes.
It’s quite likely that the Lobo family “were Irish exiles, based in Portugal and Spain after the seventeenth-century conquests of Oliver Cromwell and William III”, he writes.
A relative of the Irish revolutionary Theobald Wolfe Tone, reads the notes, named Don Nicholas Wolf, who was born in Cadiz in 1726, changed his name to “Lobo”. One theory is that Edmund is a descendent.
This is more than likely “conjecture”, says Showers. There’s little known about him. That’s one of the things that prompted Showers to visit Mount Jerome in search of his grave.
Nuggets of a Life
Census entries show what Lobo’s mother and father did. His father Robert was in the military, while his mother Hannah was a seamstress who looked after their four children after her husband died in 1899.
His marriage registration lists him as an engineer, but with no elaboration. He was apprenticed by 17 years old to the “typewrite trade”, says Showers.
Lobo wrote some poetry. His first collection was a slim 38-page paperback, called The Sacrifice of Love and Other Poems, which he self-published with a small press in Leinster Road.
It got some favourable reviews, most notably from Douglas Hyde, who later became the first president of Ireland.
Lobo, according to the introduction Dalby began and Showers is working on, also wrote a poem in memory of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, the pacifist and political activist who was “wrongfully executed during the Easter Rising in 1916”.
Was he a prolific writer of the time? “He only wrote three or four collections of poetry and that’s about it,” says Showers. He seems to be more one of these people who “may have been involved in a few different things”.
That he used several pseudonyms makes the search trickier. He co-founded an art journal, says Showers. “But you can’t make your money off three novels.”
Showers found Lobo’s grave near the edge of a collection of old graves at Mount Jerome cemetery.
Frank McGarry, the cemetery director at Mount Jerome says he knows next to nothing about the writer buried there.
“All that we know is there is an existing headstone on the grave and it appears that the grave is not regularly visited,” he says.
Showers didn’t leave a memento. He doesn’t do that when he visits writers’ graves, he says. “Apart from occasional flowers.”
He does make sure to “regularly visit the graves my favourite authors in Mount Jerome”, he says. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and the poet Æ are also buried there. He goes “to make sure their plots are tended and in good repair”.
“It’s like the Blind Lemon Jefferson song, ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’,” says Showers. “I reckon this is especially a good idea where ghost story writers are concerned.”